As technology advances and we become increasingly more connected, the risk of cyber crime and data corruption rises. Shareholders are seeking assurance that the companies they invest in are prioritising data and cyber security at a board level.Shareholders should - and are - becoming increasingly savvy to the impact data and cyber security can have on their investments.
With the security risks that are presented by data collection and storage, and with cyber crime an inevitable by-product of our escalating online existence, shareholders want to be confident that boards have the issue of cyber security firmly on their radars.
The contribution technology makes to a company's value is no longer driven purely by access to data but rather by how efficiently a company captures, manages, understands, leverages and protects that data.
Understanding a company's approach to cyber-attacks helps us understand their quality of governance, risk management and leadership. Well-governed companies are more likely to have a better understanding of the cyber risks they face.
The way in which companies answer questions about cyber security provides valuable insight into the general quality of the company's governance and risk management.
Help protect your investment
- Does the board understand cyber security risks?
- Has the board identified the aspect of their business at greatest risk? What information, processes, long-developed intellectual property is core to the business' success?
- Has the company identified how that data or process could be compromised or stolen?
- Has appropriate data security been put in place and subjected to regular testing, including external independent review?
- Does access to sensitive data require strong passwords and/or second-level authentication?
- Does the board/senior management possess the necessary skills to truly understand the risk-management practices that have been put in place to mitigate against the risk of cyber-attack?
- Are they confident breaches will be detected promptly?
- If a breach were to occur, how quickly could the company respond?
- What is the process for notifying affected customers/stakeholders?
More connections - higher risk
The widening reach of technology means we are more connected now than we ever have been, but also more vulnerable. While stored data is used to benefit consumers and tailor products, services, offerings and communication to their needs and preferences - it also increases the risk of cyber-crime.
It goes without saying that companies need to be increasingly vigilant in protecting the integrity and privacy of data systems. While it may be costly for companies to implement processes and systems to adequately protect their data, inadequate protection could potentially be even more costly.
Why does data security matter?
- Technology is changing with an ever-expanding reach.
- There is an increased emphasis on data privacy.
- Risks are shifting and becoming more complex.
- Ever-increasing records, their complexity and their links to one another means a single breach has the potential to expose a large number of people.
- It is impossible for all companies to always be prepared for any potential attack.
- News of breaches travels fast, impacting a company's reputation instantly.
- The costs of prevention and remediation of data security breaches are rising.
Financial implications for investors
The average loss for a breach of one thousand records is forecast between A$52,000 and A$87,000, with larger companies suffering higher losses per breach. Companies in the energy and utilities sector experienced the highest average cost of cyber-crime at A$8.3 million, while the retail sector experienced the lowest at A$1.4 million annually.
Ultimately, a loss to the company equates to less take-home profits for shareholders and in some cases, even greater losses over the long-term due to reputational damage.
Looking beyond the financial statements and considering Environmental Social and Governance (ESG) factors such as data security can uncover the greatest drivers of company value and lead to better informed investment decisions, and potentially higher returns.
While specific sustainability drivers will vary between industries, there is a clear correlation between how effectively a company manages ESG factors and financial returns.